Australian actress Clara Francesca talks about her powerful new film IN CORPORE, which is now available on digital globally.

GVN: You’re a globe trotter! Where’s home? 

Clara: That is such a great question! Who knows anymore? An old friend of mine used to remind me “home is where the heart is”. My heart is generally in giggling with friends and playing in the figurative sandpit of curious art.

 

Have you based yourself in one place during the pandemic?

I was born in the middle of Melbourne (Australia)’s St. Kilda fabulous hippy festival… kinda literally… That’s a longer story. Then as young children my amazing family took my brother and I back to the motherland of Italy between Catania and Verona, then back to Melbourne. In 2013 I found myself in NYC after the honour of joining SITI Company’s inaugural conservatory. And I have had the joy of staying and working in NYC ever since. So I guess NYC is home now and where I based myself during the pandemic.

 

And how has the pandemic affected your career?

Oooooooh – how did it not affect my career!? There has been a lot of grief and hardship for so many. And I am reminded that many people on the globe live in crisis on a daily basis even pre-pandemic. However from a financial and professional perspective, a bunch of tours were cancelled, some have been postponed to 2021 (here’s to hoping because I miss the stage, and breathing with the audience). I also was so looking forward to gracing a main stage in NY in a leading role with one of my favourite directors! This has all been put on hold. Having said that, the positive joys that I have received in 2020 for my career have also been wonderful. My speech-coaching career “Speak Easy with Clara” where we reduce people’s anxieties has been blossoming https://www.clarafrancesca.com/. I have booked lots of voice over work which has been great, as well as releasing an audio adventure that I am deeply proud of http://www.trinacriatheatre.com/colapesce-an-audio-adventure. I have made some covid-safe movies and co-founded a covid-safe extended reality ensemble for interdisciplinary international artists https://www.xrensemble.com/. AND! I have been humbled to attend numerous workshops and participate in numerous panels where the entertainment industry is demanding we dismantle white supremacy in the workplace. I don’t think this would have happened as rigorously without the pandemic. There is so much change that’s needed. These two links I think are great starting resources for anyone out there who is interested. https://www.weseeyouwat.com/ & https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html

  

Do you know if affected the release of the film at all?

It has… But I am proud of the lead producers and the team at large, who have pivoted gloriously and made plan B for the film’s release almost better than plan A J

Originally the plan was have a New York premiere screening in May in a cinema house.

The film was complete in February and we were looking at local cinemas to 4-wall it in true indie style, but then Covid happened so we had to switch our game. We looked for cinemas who were doing online screenings, most were looking for films with distributors. So we went to Lido Cinemas, who gave us a cinema run in Melbourne for a previous film and they put it up on their platform Lido at Home with a fair profit split – which gave us our Australian Premiere. So it was a challenge, but it just had to move online.

 

Tell me about the film – you produced it, I see, so I imagine you’ve been on it since day one?

I am the humble buddy to the producers, but yes, technically I am part of the producing team. Sarah and Ivan have been leading the phenomenal producing team. The piece really came together after I had immigrated to NYC and Sarah, Ivan and I were discussing diverse relationships and our personal experiences. We had all made a few movies together by then and we wanted to keep working on something new. The three of us had the luxury to reunite in Cannes and “In Corpore” just kept taking shape. We were really asking the question, “how do relationships crumble when communication breaks down?”

Some amazing, brave performances in it. Were you nervous about any of it?

I was petrified! As an actor, I probably still am lol… The last time actor Frank Fazio and I did a movie together (called “Zina”, also produced with Sarah and Ivan)… my amazing parents went to see it at the cinema screening that Sarah and Ivan had curated. I totally forgot that there is another very intimate scene between Frank and I in “Zina”. My darling father was watching the premier sitting next to Frank… I’ll leave the rest up to your readers’ imaginations, suffice to say, nerves were flying high. To top it off, Frank’s character name in “Zina” is the same as my darling’s father in real life…. O Mamma! I had totally forgotten.

When you make a film, it often takes a long time before being released, so these small nuisances get forgotten. But make for good stories later.

With “In Corpore” there are some incredibly brave performances! The film is particularly exploring these three cisgender white women who do not “conform” to the “norm” and are deeply suffering because society doesn’t know what to do with them; and these women don’t even know what to do with themselves. The audience meets these three women in the middle of their raw, and sometimes-ugly navigation of self-identity. As a result you have Julia (who I play) who comes across as a bit extra in a desperate attempt to deflect her pain of not fitting in. You have Anna (Naomi Said) who comes across as misleading for hiding her family planning decisions from her husband. And you have Milana (Kelsey Gillis) essentially being given an ultimatum: choose between your love life or your job! These are uncomfortable situations. These are ugly discussions when they are had devoid of compassion. As producers, we wanted “In Corpore”’s audience to be in that discomfort at times and begin a dialogue with the prompt question being “what happens to relationships when communication breaks down?”.

 But now that the movie is made, I have no nerves about our “In Corpore” at all. I’m really impressed with everyone’s work. I’m impressed that the piece offers a lens into these lives and maybe asks society at large to change the way we judge one another when it comes to intimacy and choice. I acknowledge my world-view bias that communication is key, that can include silence but the silences in this film are less about holding space and more about holding back due to fear. I believe the piece is saying “live and let live (safely and with communication)”, because when we stifle unconditional love and choice, things crumble and get raw and ugly pretty quick.

Like life, there is a lot that these characters omit from sharing with one another. These omissions are not necessary pleasant silences…

 

It, like you, is a globe trotter – the movie shot everywhere?

It is! I love that! Yes, we filmed in Australia, Malta, USA and Germany!

 

 

Was it hard to find locations in all those places?

Finding locations for a fully financed movie is hard…finding them for an indie movie is really hard! But we were SO incredibly lucky. I was tasked with finding some of the locations in NYC and Melbourne and can’t thank my colleagues enough, especially Jane Stein, Alexis Kandra, my parents and the lovely George Ivanoff (our NY DP).

Sarah and Ivan tell me that in Berlin they sourced an AirBnb, and contacted local bars, eventually finding one online. And that in Malta they used the director’s apartment and family home for the indoor locations.

 

How accurately do you feel it represents today’s relationships?

Hmmm… this is an excellent question but I don’t think I know how to answer it other than to share my personal opinion that there is no “one relationship type today (or ever has been probably)”… I think that is part of what our film is trying to say. I know peers in their 60s who are navigating life choices like the character Julia. I can only assume the same is true for the other characters. I think the film accurately represents today’s breakdowns… That being, that if an individual feels fear because they might be attacked for not being “normal” within a specific group, it makes it almost impossible for that individual to know how to communicate that they want something different. And society at large will leap to judge that “non-conforming” person. OF COURSE there is pain on the other side of the aisle too… But when we come from a place of judgment and fear, it can be almost impossible to find the solution whether that is moving on or a compromise. I think “In Corpore” is proposing that if we live in this fear, we will end up staying in a hamster wheel of raw hidden omissions.

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